Sunday, November 30, 2014

Daniel Stabrawa

Daniel Stabrawa is a Polish violinist, teacher, and conductor born (in Krakow) on August 23, 1955.  He is very well-known as the concertmaster of the Berlin Philharmonic and easily one of the best concertmasters in the world.  In addition, as almost all concertmasters have done for centuries, he performs as soloist or chamber music player as often as he can.  Stabrawa began his violin lessons at age 7.  He later studied with Zbigniew Szlezer at the Music Academy in Krakow.  He entered the Paganini violin competition in 1978 and came in a respectable sixth place.  He became concertmaster of the Polish Radio Symphony in Krakow in 1979.  He was 24 years old.  He probably worked somewhere else prior to this but I don’t know where.  In 1980 he again entered the Paganini violin competition and again came in sixth place.  He first joined the Berlin Philharmonic in 1983.  He was 28 years old.  Herbert Von Karajan was chief conductor back then.  Three years later, Stabrawa was appointed concertmaster – actually one of three concertmasters.  (German orchestras usually hire three concertmasters considered equals – they are known as first concertmasters.  They also hire two or three concertmasters of lower rank.  It is very unusual for all three first concertmasters to be present for even a few concerts; however, it is also highly unusual for all three first concertmasters to be absent at the same time so this arrangement guarantees that a first concertmaster is always available to play.  Therefore, an associate or assistant concertmaster rarely gets to sit in the first chair.)  In 1985, Stabrawa began playing – as first violinist – in the Philharmonia Quartet (with Christian Stadelmann on second violin, Neithard Resa on viola, and Jan Diesselhorst on cello - Dietmar Schwalke replaced Diesselhorst in 1999. All are Berlin Philharmonic players.)  Here is a YouTube video of the quartet playing a movement from the second of Beethoven’s Opus 59 quartets.  The quartet recently completed recording all of Beethoven’s string quartets.   Stabrawa taught at the Orchestra Academy of the Berlin Philharmonic for fourteen years - from 1986 to 2000.  In 1994, he took an interest in conducting.  He began conducting the Capella Bydgostsiensis Chamber Orchestra in 1995 (possibly 1994) and conducted it for at least seven years, although I do not know if he is still conducting that ensemble.  It resides in Bydgoszcz, Poland, about 225 miles northeast of Berlin and 175 miles northwest of Warsaw.  He has been quoted as saying that he actually conducts very little, which is understandable given the heavy concert schedule maintained by the Berlin orchestra.  He has stated: “If you can direct, that helps a lot as concertmaster.  Orchestra musicians have always felt they could do better than the conductor.  But when you stand in front, you realize: Conducting's like playing the violin, you have to have an incredible technique; you need to know how it works.  Every little wrong movement is transferred to the orchestra.  Conducting is as hard as playing violin.”  In 2008, he founded the Stabrawa Ensemble Berlin.  As far as recording, Stabrawa has recorded most of the orchestral repertoire as a concertmaster, though he has also recorded some solo works.  His solos in Korsakov’s Scheherazade are second to none (and I should say I have heard quite a few.)  His sound has always been described as being very beautiful.  You can judge for yourself here (in a short video, playing one of Jeno Hubay’s concertos with his Berlin colleagues) and here, playing a Wieniawski piece (Opus 20.)  This one features him with Nigel Kennedy playing a little-known duo concerto by Vivaldi. Stabrawa has played a violin by Francesco Ruggeri from 1674 and might still be playing it - of that I am not certain.  



Sunday, November 16, 2014

Boris Kuschnir

Boris Kuschnir is a Russian violinist and teacher born (in Kiev, Ukraine) on October 28, 1948.  More than anything, he is known as a violin pedagogue and chamber music player.  Several of his students play in the Vienna Philharmonic and some have international careers as soloists.  Just as Arthur Hartmann and Tivadar Nachez knew so many of the musical luminaries in their day, Kuschnir does in his own time.  As far as violinists go, Kuschnir’s website is probably the most comprehensive on the internet.  I don’t know at what age he began his violin studies but, as a young man, he studied with Boris Belenky and Valentin Berlinsky at the Moscow Conservatory.  He also studied with David Oistrakh.  In 1970, he founded the Moscow String Quartet.  He was 22 years old.  In 1981, he left Russia and settled in Austria, where one of his first jobs was playing concertmaster of the Bruckner Orchestra in Linz (about 110 miles west of Vienna.)  In 1984 he began teaching at the Vienna Conservatory.  He was 35 years old.  That same year, he founded the Vienna Schubert Trio (1985-1993, with Claus Schuster on piano and Martin Hornstein on cello.)  In 1993, he founded the Vienna Brahms Trio with Orfeo Mandozzi (cello) and Jasminka Stancul (piano.)  The trio is probably still active.  He co-founded the Kopelman Quartet in 2002.  This group is interesting because the first violinist lives in New York, the second violinist lives in Vienna, and the violist and cellist live (in different cities) in Spain.  Here’s a YouTube video of the quartet playing (in Cyprus) the eighth string quartet of Dmitri Shostakovich.  In addition to judging at many violin competitions around the world, Kuschnir also plays at music festivals far and wide, including the Spoleto, the Verbier, and the Salzburg Festivals.  His best known pupils are probably Alexandra Soumm, Julian Rachlin, Nicolas Znaider, and Lidia Baich.   There are many YouTube videos of Kuschnir in performance.  Here is one of them.  Since 1991, Kuschnir has been playing a Stradivarius from 1698 (or 1703, according to several sources) nicknamed La Rouse Boughton.  

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Peter Stojanovic

Peter Stojanovic (Petar Stojanovic Lazar) was a Serbian violinist, composer, and teacher born (in Budapest) on September 7, 1877.  He is largely forgotten.  Several sources have him studying with Jeno Hubay in Vienna and Budapest.  I am not aware that Hubay taught in Vienna but I do know he was at the Budapest College of Music and Budapest Conservatory from 1886 onward.  At the Vienna Conservatory Stojanovic studied with Jacob Grun, who was also concertmaster of the Vienna Opera Orchestra.  Grun was Joseph Joachim's close friend and colleague.  In 1925, Stojanovic was appointed professor of violin and composition at the conservatory in Belgrade.  He was 48 years old.  Stojanovic also concertized throughout Europe as a soloist and with his string quartet.  He later founded the Music Academy in Belgrade.  Among his compositions are 5 violin concertos, 2 viola concertos, 1 horn concerto, one flute concerto, 2 ballets, 2 tone poems, 3 operas, and diverse chamber music.  His most famous pupil is probably Robert Virovai, another obscure violinist.  Stojanovic died (in Belgrade) on September 11, 1957, at age 80.  The world of classical music had changed drastically by then and he had already become so obscure that the Grove Dictionary of Music (edition of 1953) has no mention of him.  You can listen to one of his violin concertos here.